Rattle That Lock
18 September 2015
With the exception of 2014’s so-so denouement to the Pink Floyd saga, The Endless River, David Gilmour’s discography in the 21st century is a sparse one. In actual fact, this is his first solo album to be released in nine years, and his fourth overall. Still, you can’t blame the man. Having led Pink Floyd through thick and thin in the wake of Roger Water’s departure, and having contributed some of the finest guitar solos in music history is still more than enough to silence even the harshest music critic. Nevertheless, a question still remains, that being, is this album any good? The answer is an ambiguous one.
Now, it is fair to say that the album starts out strongly enough. ‘5 A.M.’ is a reflective piece of ambient trademark Gilmour soloing (think ‘Wish You Were Here Part 1’). The sophomore track, ‘Rattle That Lock’ proves to be equally strong, with a steady sing-along chorus and bluesy rhythm that is prime material for pop radio. The end of the album is again a strong exhibition of Gilmour’s song-writing and soloing, with tracks such as ‘Today’, a rock and roller which harks back to a groovier time in Gilmour’s personal history, and ‘And Then…’, a moving instrumental ballad reminiscent of A Momentary Lapse of Reason-era Pink Floyd, prove to be the other standouts. They’re fine tracks, and will undoubtedly wind up on a Best Of compilation if he ever chooses to release one.
“The easy-to-the-ears sound presents the production values of a musical hypochondriac, somebody terrified of even the smallest amount of mud or distortion.”
However, the middle suffers from several flaws. To start with, Gilmour’s guitar work, arguably his strongest faculty, begins to fall by the wayside, to be replaced with a torrent of synthesisers and backing vocalists. Whilst ‘Beauty’ provides some passable slide-guitar, its obsession with atmosphere leaves it in a weaker position than his other solos. Alongside this, the songs begin to lose their edge, simply resorting to the traditional verse-chorus-verse formula, all the while accepting mediocrity. Whilst it’s perfectly fine to experiment with different genres (e.g. the pseudo-swing of ‘The Girl in the Yellow Dress’), and sing ballads, a key part to succeeding in these territories is to be able to keep the listener hooked, which these middle tracks fail to do.
Indeed, the fact that the production is so clean proves to be a hindrance towards the middle tracks. The easy-to-the-ears sound presents the production values of a musical hypochondriac, somebody terrified of even the smallest amount of mud or distortion. It’s too clinical, too clean, and too artificial. The same could be said about his band. Whilst the musicians he’s selected are indeed of a very high quality, and are able to keep up with Gilmour, they follow when he wants them to take the lead. The solos they present are primarily based around mimicking Gilmour, instead of giving themselves a chance to shine. They’re formulaic, textbook variations, with little to no originality, which is a shame, especially when you consider the originality of some of Gilmour’s earlier work.
Start with the beginning and end with the end. Cut out the middle; you won’t miss much.